See the beauty of Northern New Mexico at National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City
By Chadd Scott
Theodore Van Soelen, Fall in Northern New Mexico, (1922). Tia Collection
It can also be, simply, beautiful.
Art has never been more beautiful than the New Mexico landscapes on view now at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City during its exhibition of “New Beginnings: An American Story of Romantics and Modernists in the West” through January 2, 2022. The paintings’ beauty is only exceeded by the real thing.
Drawn from Santa Fe’s Tia Collection, “New Beginnings” includes portraits, sculptures, still lives and depictions of various Western scenes, but it is with landscapes where the exhibition soars.
Spill out the super sack of art superlatives and all will apply to this ravishing presentation of variously large, bold, colorful, vibrant landscapes produced by artists who lived and worked in northern New Mexico during the 1920s and 1930s when Santa Fe and Taos were among the most important national and international arts colonies.
While familiar names are featured – Nicolai Fechin, Fremont Ellis, Taos Founders – introduction to artists likely unfamiliar to even diehards of the genre – Richard Crisler, Alice Schille, Theodore van Soelen, Jozef Bakos – brings the extra benefit of discovery. Numerous among them are women. A further surprise.
Jozef Bakos, Telaya Peak, (1921). Tia Collection
A greater surprise still is finding the work of perhaps America’s most famed early modernist, Stuart Davis. Davis’ Cubist and jazz inspired, brightly colored, abstracted cityscapes fill eastern art museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but while he was best known for his paintings of New York, visitors to “New Beginnings” learn he also spent time painting in Santa Fe.
The awkwardness of a brilliant artist like Davis who spent most of his life in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York attempting to come to grips with the New Mexico light and landscape is apparent when contrasted against the mastery with which he depicted the Big Apple.
Oklahoma City is the final stop on a three-year, six museum tour for the exhibition. During its time at the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings, the institution created this wonderful “virtual” walk-through which provides a look at the artworks (go directly to the back wall for the landscapes).
Art lovers visiting Oklahoma City should base their stay at the 21c Museum Hotel which features rotating displays of contemporary art throughout the lobby and guest floors. Significant works from superstar Hank Willis Thomas stand out.
Situated in the former home of a Ford Motor Company assembly plant which dates back more than a century and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 21c Oklahoma City takes full advantage of the scale and openness of its historical setting; the 135-room boutique hotel providing rooms reminiscent of a loft apartment in New York’s Soho neighborhood.
The breakfast tacos at Stitch café next door are the perfect fuel for a big day of art.
After visiting the Cowboy, stopping by longtime local favorite Gabriella’s Italian Grill and Pizzeria is requisite. Less than 500 feet from the Cowboy parking lot, this restaurant is so authentic you’ll be looking over your shoulder to make sure you aren’t whacked. It doesn’t open until 4:00, and is closed on Sunday and Monday, so plan your visit accordingly.
Learn more about the Tia Collection on this episode of “Art Dealer Diaries.”